“The mindset was somewhat different for whatever motive,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “Clearly, we needed to make an alteration from the very first match. We were not there emotionally. We did not compete. We’ve got the speed as well as the ability to do anything if we are willing to fight and compete. We did that [Monday]. At times it was not quite. We turned, we did not break. We took advantage of our chances.”
That it was Johnson who taken the Lightning in franchise history with the first playoff hat trick isn’t a surprise to anybody who has been paying attention. His line, with Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, has been doing it all season, especially during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when they’ve 21 of the 41 goals of the Lightning.
“[Johnson] particularly, that line specifically, has been tremendous for us all year,” Stamkos said. “I believe that is the top line I Have seen in a very long time with all three men having the ability to give and only have that chemistry. Typically you see lots of pairs in the NHL. To have three men on a line, it is quite unique.”
That it was Johnson also made it eerily reminiscent of what Lightning enthusiasts should recall from the player he’s basically replaced in Tampa; a player who fighting — and is playing — on the different side of the chain.
He scored 24 points in 23 matches to lead the Lightning to the Stanley Cup tournament in 2004.
How right he was.
“I have said this before, you walk into that child’s house and you also take a look at the prize mantle and all you see is decorations of where this child has won — Memorial Cup, Calder Cup, World Juniors,” Cooper said. “Winning follows that child. You are a particular player for that to occur. Tyler Johnson isn’t the sole one this happens to, but it is quite remarkable to do it in the planet ‘s most well-known stadium, in the best league on earth on the largest stage. It does not get any larger than that. I do not understand. I can not say enough.”
But Johnson was just a narrative within the narrative that is larger Monday. A huge answer was needed by the Lightning as a team after their dead Game 1 functionality. They needed to demonstrate the Rangers they will not be a pushover, that they are here to compete, to win.
When the New York Rangers pushed back with Chris Kreider’s power play goal, Johnson reacted with a 4-on-3 power play goal to put Tampa Bay Lightning up 2-1 at 11:15 of the first period.
Tampa Bay was 3-2 at the time.
“And that is the reason why we won tonight.”